Friday evening and the first of the summer's Hove Park crits put on by Brighton Mitre.
I've been looking forward to these as I very much enjoyed last years races and their cut and thrust and pain and glory and humiliation, but continued (insert the oedipal noun here) illness has put the caibosh on all that today.
The crits are enthusiastically open to all so there's usually a beautifully random collection of bikes and riders, although the old loved Peugeots and Colnagos are being slowly squeezed out by Cervelos, a lot of pimped up Cervelos, and nervous first time racers rub shoulders and bar-tape against seasoned legs. It's also a splendid way to catch up with some friends, recognise faces from last time, and then try to mercilessly rip each others legs off.
Sitting on the grass in the late evening sun the races looks rather pedestrian, like the riders are ambling by on a sunday sportive, but it's quite a different story on the inside. Balls out from the word go, lungs bouncing off the top-tube by the first corner, tongue-out concentration in the bends, agonisingly trying not to lose a wheel, angrily trying to shake the person on yours, or suffering the terrible loneliness of the time-trial marooned in the limbo between bunches, quiet alliances, wondering how long an hour can last, desperate for it to stop. A harsh reminder that no matter how fit you think you are there's always someone, or several, elegantly fitter.
Hurt, hurt, hurt, hurt, hurt.
I'm a traitor, a cheating lazy armchair pundit joining in with the post-race chatter, and I miss the traditional wobbly ride home via the chip shop, supper wolfed down sat on the sofa still in bib-shorts, followed by the creeping silent onset of tiredness, and the inability to walk down the stairs without wincing for the whole of the next day.
In the chip shop I feel horribly guilty, a sham, I've not earnt this, it's a wonder the staff don't ask me how I have the gall to even consider turning up. So I have just a medium cod with the small chips.